September 16, 2019
Fast Facts
Bringing Business Up to Speed
Top Stories

Broken Lock at Bonneville Dam has major impact on Northwest commerce

Much of the critical Columbia River transportation network is down while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works to quickly repair a critical navigation lock that has cracked concrete. The crack was discovered earlier this month and the lock was quickly drained of water so crews could begin repairs.

The practical effect of this surprise repair means a near total shutdown of the Columbia River transportation network, “meaning huge barges that transport millions of tons of wheat, wood and other goods from the inland Pacific Northwest to the Pacific Ocean for export to Asia are at a standstill,” The Associated Press reports.

"We're trying to be really, really transparent and feed people updates as quickly as possible," Army Corps spokesman Chris Gaylord told the news agency. "We've been getting work done out there as quickly as possible." The cause of the damage is unknown, and the locks are maintained annually.

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last week the locks will reopen Sept. 30.

The problem means barges headed inland can’t move past Bonneville Dam, and neither can those headed downriver to the Pacific Ocean, where the wheat crop is transferred to larger ships that carry it to Asian markets that are important for not just the Inland Northwest but the larger American agriculture economy.

“The eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers are critical parts of a watery highway that transports millions of tons of agricultural and other products for shipment to and from the Pacific Rim via large, deepwater ports on the coasts of Oregon and Washington,” AP reports. “The first of these dams is the Bonneville Dam, located about 40 miles northeast of Portland.”

Kristin Meira of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association said 8 million tons of cargo move inland on the Columbia and Snake Rivers each year. Fifty-three percent of the country’s wheat was transported along the Columbia in 2017, and the river system also serves as the No. 2 “export gate” for corn. About $2 billion in cargo moves through the system each year, the Army Corps reports.

"It is absolutely critical that the Corps of Engineers reopen that lock as soon as possible," Meira said.

Meanwhile, officials in Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration have begun gathering information for a study on keeping – or removing – the Snake River dams, KONA radio reports.

Jim Cahill with the state Office of Financial Management updated the timeline Monday at a meeting of the South Resident Orca Task Force in Port Angeles, KONA reports. A draft report will be done by December, with public hearings coming soon afterward. The final report due to the governor and the Legislature in February.

To read more about the Bonneville Dam, check out the Spokesman-Review here and Northwest Public Broadcasting here.

« Back to Main
Renew Ex-Im Now

Help Washington growers, manufacturers get their products to the world

By AWB President Kris Johnson

Washington is the most trade-driven station in the nation per-capita, with more than 40% of our jobs connected in some way to trade. Manufactured goods make up 82% of our state's exports and Washington is the third-largest exporter of food and agriculture products in the country.

That's why it's critically important that Congress and the presidential administration renew the charter for the Export-Import Bank, which is set to expire at the end of September.

The Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that provides export credit to oversees purchasers of U.S. goods and services. It contributes to the economy by supporting American jobs, and it doesn't cost taxpayers anything. Since 2000, the Ex-Im Bank has provided nearly $15 billion to the U.S. Treasury...

Read the full column in The Wenatchee Valley Business World
Ideas for Career-Connected Learning

How Vocational Education Got a 21st Century Reboot

With schools across 10 states, the P-TECH program prepares its students for good jobs that corporations pay well for.

The P-TECH idea was invented in 2010, when then-IBM CEO Sam Palmisano was chatting up his friend Joel Klein, then New York City's schools chancellor. During a rain delay at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Palmisano told Klein that the tech industry was having trouble finding young people with the skills it needed. Klein proposed opening a six-year school with the City University of New York and curriculum input from IBM. Students could work IBM internships and, if they passed a company certification test, would be first in line for job interviews at IBM. Palmisano agreed. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the plan in September 2010 and gave the partners a year to open the school.

When Klein and Palmisano shook on the deal, vocational education was just beginning to emerge from the academic backwater where it had languished for decades. Conceived a century ago so high school students could learn a trade if they weren't going to college, vocational education had developed a reputation as a dumping ground for students who weren't doing well in regular academics. Harvard's influential Pathways to Prosperity report, released in 2011, warned that nearly two-thirds of new jobs of the 2010s would require more than a high school education -- yet only 40 percent of Americans had obtained a bachelor's degree or associate's degree by their mid-20s.

By contrast, the report noted, 40 to 70 percent of high school kids in many European countries spent three years in career programs that combined classroom and workplace experience, where they earned diplomas or certificates strongly valued in the labor market...

Read the full report in Politico